Seasonal work has always been a welcome go-to for a number of audiences — university students home for vacation breaks, people with seasonal time off, retirees looking for short-term work, and others. But, in a hyper-competitive, employee-driven job market, finding seasonal talent has become a growing challenge for many employers. 

How, then, can your business staff short-term talent right now? Be more proactive in engaging target candidates and, as you do, encourage recruitment teams to think creatively and scientifically. Start here.

Step 1: Understand what employees want — and how you can deliver or work around it 

Between February and March 2020, searches for remote opportunities grew 164%, with more than half of job seekers saying the ability to work from home and/or work flexible hours is the most important benefit, even more so than career progression. This can make it more challenging to staff restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and other common seasonal employers, since in-person work is required.

If you aren’t able to offer remote and/or flexible opportunities, think about ways to tout what you do offer. For example, because seasonal work is often shift-based, the opportunity to work multiple shifts and earn extra money in a hurry can make seasonal employment more appealing to some candidates.

It’s also important for your team to revisit the value-add for seasonal workers. Industry-standard wages and minor perks such as employee discounts may elicit yawns from many candidates this year. To truly distinguish yourself from competitors and entice workers to apply and stay for the entire season, you’ll probably need to beef up the benefits. For example, retailers such as Aritzia have offered signing bonuses and product discounts to seasonal workers. The government has also changed its temporary foreign worker policy to reduce the time it takes temporary workers to be permitted to work following labour shortages in certain sectors due to the pandemic.. 

And if you are able to offer these types of unique perks, make sure you’re communicating them internally and externally. These benefits can truly tip the scales in your favour — don’t bury them in your job posts. 

Step 2: Meet job seekers where they are 

The art of recruiting seasonal teams is about developing messages that will generate the highest response rates among qualified candidates. The science involves testing the messages, and then presenting your opportunities in the right environment, to the right audience, at the right time — no assumptions made. 

To ensure you’re striking that balance, be sure your team is not over-indexing — or overlooking — any of the groups that comprise the target audience for seasonal employment:

  • University and graduate students, for example, are often home for weeks or even months on end during the holiday season.
  • Similarly, stay-at-home parents may have a desire to earn additional money during this time of the year, or to “test drive” working part time in a low-commitment environment.
  • Teachers, educators, and those in the extended education environment — e.g., bus drivers, school safety officers, administrators, and support teams — may have the bandwidth for part-time or even full-time work during the holidays, while schools are on break.
  • Previous seasonal workers may be a good candidate pool. Consider incentives, including higher wages, for returning workers. Not only will the learning curve be shorter; you’ll also build longer-term loyalty for seasonal roles and, potentially, full-time positions. Returning workers may also be a good source of referrals, provided they are properly incentivized.
  • Retirees may also be a good candidate pool as thirty-nine percent of workers aged between 65 and 69 work part-time.. Your team should definitely pay attention to this group, as it may be the most neglected.

Consider targeted social media, pay-per-click, and/or search campaigns that directly engage these audiences. At the same time, enhance your employer brand angle by featuring images of employees from these different groups in your materials.

Step 3: Elevate your full-time team 

Finally, the holidays could be an optimal time to engage full-time employees and (potentially) expose them to other roles, skills, or even leadership opportunities within your organization, thereby strengthening your candidate pipeline. A full-time worker may be interested in earning overtime or accelerating their career path within the industry or within your business.

Giving a high-potential employee the opportunity to gain leadership skills — e.g., by training or supervising seasonal workers — may go a long way to boosting morale and retention. At the same time, this approach can help your business build or improve its internal funnel at a time when external hires are in short supply.

Together, these strategies can help your business get — and stay — ahead of the seasonal hiring curve, and help you have the right talent to keep you moving forward during these all-important periods.